Every week we'll break down the movers, shakers, winners and losers in fantasy football, and keep an eye out for the players you should be eyeing for your fantasy rosters.
It's Week 9, and a frightful Halloween is upon us! As we celebrate with tricks and treats, it's time to separate the ghoulish from the great in the ranks of fantasy football. Keeping in mind that some potential trades are in the mix (as of this writing, Rams RB Stephen Jackson is rumored to be on the block), we look forward to Week 9 action with a few familiar faces (and monsters). But first...
The Week 8 Debrief:
1. MFFF's picks last week = we might be getting good at this, finally. Our pick at RB, Jacksonville's Rashad Jennings, didn't have a record-breaking day, but he did garner a respectable 115 total yards, and will get the bulk of his team's touches for the foreseeable future. Ditto Steeler RB Jonathan Dwyer, who piled up 129 yards and looks to hold onto his role as starting RB for at least one more week. Tampa QB Josh Freeman also continued his torrid pace with 262 yards and 3 TDs, and Oakland WR Denarius Moore came up big with 96 yards and a TD (and it should have been 100+ yards and 2 TDs if not for a dropped pass). Other fantasy pick-ups from last week who came through included Ram WR Chris Givens (63 yards and a TD) and Miami TE Anthony Fasano (only one catch, but for a critical TD). On the flip side, Jet WR Jeremy Kerley only garnered 43 yards receiving although he was targeted 11 times (the perils of playing with a below-par QB) and Redskins WR Leonard Hankerson (1 measly catch for 14 yards) was bogged down with the rest of his team's offense in soggy Pittsburgh.
2. Hey, what happened to all those records? Remember those long-ago, fondly remembered days of 2011, when a handful of QBs broke the seemingly impregnable 5,000-yard passing mark? During the offseason, pundits were practically salivating, thinking of all the league passing records that would be rewritten in 2012. Well, not really. After eight weeks, here's the number of QBs who are on pace to crack 5,000 yards this season: zero. Nada, zip, zilch. This doesn't necessarily mean that QB play has fallen off -- currently, six QBs are on pace to crack 30+ TD passes, compared to only 5 last year. Receiver play doesn't seem to have suffered much either -- in 2011, 19 receivers cruised past the 1,000-yard receiving mark, while 18 are on track to do so this year.
The conclusion? The teams with the "elite" fantasy QBs (Green Bay, New England, New Orleans, Detroit, etc.) have either seen some early-season struggles impact QB stats, or are looking to balance out their attacks with the run, which has resulted in reduced passing numbers, but all this has been counterbalanced by the rest of the league catching up when it comes to overall production (not quality of production, mind you, but overall production). When rookie QBs like Andrew Luck and Brandon Weeden are on pace to pass the 4,000-yard mark in their first seasons, it's clear that QB play is still valuable, but points are being spread out among a larger number of QBs than last year (although it should be noted that there are exceptions, like Peyton Manning or Robert Griffin III, who are running away in the overall fantasy scoring categories). With Aaron Rodgers and Tom Brady potentially heating up in the second half of the season, we'll see if this trend continues...
3. Imminent coaching/player changes = anything goes. As fall gives way to early winter and disappointment for many an NFL team, heads start rolling -- this week we've heard about players like QB Michael Vick potentially getting benched in the near future, or coaches like San Diego's Norv Turner hanging by a thread. It's a dangerous business to estimate the impact of removing a player or coach from the overall equation. For instance, if Vick is benched, does this mean that RB Leshon McCoy owners can finally breathe a sigh of relief as their meal-ticket becomes the focal point of the offense? Or will it lead to more heartbreak as defenses focus all their efforts on stopping McCoy? We hate to be vague, but each situation will be different -- the key will be to notice any trend as it develops, and react fast.
4. Watch the weather. Hurricane Sandy is the big news this week but on a broader level, we're arriving at the point in the season where weather and field conditions can really impact the outcome of a game. Look no further than New Orleans at Denver last Sunday -- the Saints are a different animal when they're outdoors, and in the thin Mile High air they were a step behind the Broncos all night. MFFF has a basic formula for determining whether an individual matchup is good or not depending on the field conditions: If the player is on a team that's above .500, roll the dice on him, even if it's a tough matchup in difficult conditions. If he's on a .500 or lower team, see if you can find alternatives if the weather looks to be wacky.
Our Spooky Fantasy Pick-ups This Week:
1. The Fly: Jacksonville WR Cecil Shorts
We may have annointed him a fantasy breakout player a bit early, but now he's fully hatched as QB Blaine Gabbert's top target in Jacksonville. Only problem is other teams know this as well, so you may have a few rocky weeks ahead, but he's got enough talent (and targets) to be worth a a "fly-er."
2. Young Michael Myers: St. Louis RB Daryl Richardson
Daryl who? Like young Michael Myers, you wouldn't expect this guy to bust out, and he won't help you this week because the Rams are on bye, but if the Steven Jackson trade rumors come true, he's next in line to be a starting RB, giving him an opportunity to, ahem, slash through some opponents.
3. The Mummy: Seattle WR Golden Tate
After catching the infamous "game-winning TD that shouldn't have been" in Week 3, you'd think Tate has been entombed somewhere with his near-noexistent stats, but with the rest of the Seahawk WR corps banged up, and QB Russell Wilson continuing to develop, he should be in for brighter days ahead. Like the Mummy, bury him at your peril.
4. Dracula: Miami RB Daniel Thomas
Caught in the daylight of RB Reggie Bush, he won't put up starter numbers, but he's received more goal-line carries in recent weeks (a respectable 42 yards and a TD last week), and with Bush always an injury risk, he's a candidate to step out of the shadows and into fantasy RB1 territory at a moment's notice.
Best Offensive Matchup of the Week:
Philadelphia at New Orleans: After being on the wrong end of stick offensively against the Broncos last week, the Saints get a shot at payback in the friendly confines of home against a Philadelphia defense which is in a shambles after the firing of defensive coordinator Juan Castillo.
Best Defensive Matchup of the Week:
Kansas City at San Diego: This week might be the Chargers' last chance to save Norv Turner's job, and they'll have the perfect opponent against which to do so: the offensively-challenged Chiefs haven't led at any point during regulation this entire season (yikes!).
Got a specific question or need advice on fantasy football this week? Sound off in the comments section below.